The Automated Agency: Taking Care of Business in Marketing’s New Age
When it comes to marketing, times have changed. From advertising to public relations, digital has taken over. Hiring and keeping talent is more difficult and the use of consultants has risen, making capacity planning hard. The growth of project-based work is complicating team utilization and pipeline forecasting for in-house marketing teams and agencies. Even acquiring new clients has taken on a life of its own.
Meanwhile, competition is at a high, so it’s critical agencies increase efficiency and profitability. Owners and senior leaders need tighter control over time and cost allocation, invoicing, pricing, cash flow, and projects. They need to analyze business metrics to gain insights that’ll provide a competitive advantage, and harness artificial intelligence (AI) for data on email habits to campaign performance.
This all brings up another pain point: the proliferation of tools. They add complexity, require data to be pulled manually, and can introduce errors. Managing and using them can be messy and time-consuming. A new marketing age requires a new approach to agency business.
Could professional services automation (PSA) be the answer you’re looking for?
Technology now allows agencies to automate business functions while presenting real-time insights into metrics for better decision-making. In fact, an entire agency—and everyone in it—can be united with a single accessible PSA platform.
For agency leaders, this offers the potential for some powerful business benefits, such as:
Increased Efficiency: PSA platforms can provide full project management through one outcome-driven tool, encompassing resource and budget planning, document management, collaboration, and tracking. The right one can also offer personnel utilization and service status, heat maps for availability, role, and skill matching—even automated suggestions.
Higher Profitability: More control lowers costs and raises profitability. Sophisticated PSA platforms can help agency leaders get time and expenses right from the start with pre-populated timesheets, stopwatch capabilities for tracking, notifications, and approval via any device. They can also chart accounts, A/P & A/R, corporate P&L, automate flexible billing, and use 24/7 real-time reporting.
Greater Proficiency: PSA tools can analyze the past and anticipate the future. Data and insight capabilities can provide real-time sales, customer, and project and utilization metrics. Configurable KPI boards can empower with fast access to vital data. Agencies can also bridge the gap between sales and delivery, quote to cash. Leaders can ensure the scope of work is on-target, manage and grow margins, forecast the work pipeline, and know what’s working best for clients.
If you feel it’s time to look into PSA, know that all platforms are not created equal—so there are a few things to keep in mind.
Let’s face it, technology sprawl has become a problem. Companies often have separate tools for tracking time, customer relationship and project management, billing and more. Be sure vendors know you want one tool to control them all. Also, the solution you choose should “play well” with other technology, deploying rapidly and integrating easily with critical tools.
Make sure the vendor is established. You don’t want to invest in something that may not be supported in the future. The solution should also be proven; immature technology frustrates users and stalls adoption. Along the same lines, you want to integrate your agency’s entire business functions and everyone in it. So most of all, be sure the tools are familiar, fun, and formidable.
Simplicity and intuitiveness are key. Otherwise, no one will use it, and your efforts and investment will be undermined.
Once your PSA solution is live, it’ll do the hard work. You and your team can be assured accurate insights are driving decision-making. That’s where usability comes into play: Choosing software that people want to use rather than have to use eases your utilization burden.
Taking Care of Business
These are challenging times for marketers. Changes come quickly, simply keeping up is a challenge, never mind losing hours to unnecessary administrative tasks, gathering data, correcting billing issues, preventing over-servicing of clients, and more.
At an agency, time is everything. In today’s ultra-competitive marketing realm, you’ve got to take care of business. The sooner you take control with a PSA solution, the more time you’ll likely have on your side.